The World Cup is big business for television networks, even if the United States isn’t playing in it in 2018.
The United States Men’s National Team’s failure to quality for Russia next summer is a huge blow to soccer in America, but Fox Sports is committed to broadcasting the biggest soccer tournament on the planet anyway. It’s a world spectacle, after all, and it’s a chance to watch elite-level soccer even without the chance to watch the U.S. try to escape group play.
But a witness in a trial for corruption in FIFA says that Fox Sports paid bribes to get soccer broadcast rights, including the Copa America broadcast. The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that an ex-marketing executive testified in a New York corruption trial that Fox paid bribes to FIFA officials.
Alejandro Burzaco, the former CEO of a marketing firm based in Argentina, testified that Fox was among other broadcasters who paid bribes for “sham contracts” for tournaments like Copa America and other FIFA events.
As evidence of the scheme, prosecutors at the trial at a federal court in New York City produced a 2008 agreement for the partnership to pay $3.7 million to a holding company in Turks and Caicos that was a conduit for the bribes. They say it was signed by a former Fox executive.
Asked whom he kept informed about the bribe arrangements, Burzaco responded, “Fox Pan American Sports. . Fox Sports.”
Fox declined to comment about the matter, but if this is true, it illustrates that the well-documented corruption in FIFA stretches far beyond just the bids for the World Cup host cities.